In-Sight: Lectio Divina (4)

We receive and accept “a word” from our reading (lectio) phase.  Now, we meditate (meditatio) in relation to it.

My favorite definition of meditation comes from Evelyn Underhill:  “thinking in the presence of God.”  That takes a lot of the confusion about meditation out of the way for me.  I also like what Hugh of St. Victor called it: “piercing the core of a particular truth.”

There is an important point to note here:  Christian meditation is not an emptying of your mind.  It’s not a tabula rasa (empty tablet) experience.  On the contrary, it is a time to fill your mind with the thoughts and insights which come in relation to the word you’ve selected.  Christian meditation is always in relation to a text, not a “stream of consciousness” experience.

In the meditation phase we engage ourselves as fully as we can in relation to the “word” we have been given.  It’s okay to think of this as the “study phase” of lectio divina.  I know people who use the biblical languages to enrich their encounter.  Others use exegetical  and inductive methodologies to “pierce the core.”  Still others use Bible-study plans they have learned previously.

Here is a good time to use your concordance, cross-references, maps, etc.  (Stay away from commentaries until the last; they will “cloud” your own observations).  Now is a moment to bring other related things to the table:  hymns, poems, art, other music, readings from other books, movies, life experiences, etc.

Meditation is “walking around” the word you’ve been given, pondering it from a variety of vantage points.  Think of it as a 360-degree observation experience.

One caution:  don’t get lost or consumed in this process.  Lectio is a prayerful reading of the Bible, not an exhaustive study of it.  If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, just jot down what’s gotten your attention, and mark it for further study later on.

I think the ultimate point of meditation is to discover how “rich” the word really is, and on many occasions, part of the “richness” will be your realization that you have already connected with this word in earlier ways and previous occasions.

Some people like to conclude their time of meditation by re-writing the text they have explored in their own words.  If you are doing group lectio with other friends, you’ll find it interesting to share your paraphrases when you meet together.

Other people like to “make notes” as they think about the word, using a journal or other kind of notebook to capture the insights—sometimes in no particular order.  One teacher has called his notebook a “blessing catcher.”

Whatever you call it, and however you specifically practice it on any given occasion, meditation is an opportunity to “enter into” the word you’ve been given.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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